P&Z seeks legal guidance on Hush Shelton application

Shelton’s Planning and Zoning Commission is seeking legal counsel for assistance on how to proceed with the application for the zoning compliance of a controversial “burlesque-themed cafe” that is or would be located on Old Bridgeport Avenue.

The business may not open unless it meets zoning compliance regulations, according to Mayor Mark Lauretti.

The commission will discuss the topic at its Tuesday, Nov. 14, meeting in city hall.

Hush Shelton became the topic of many resident conversations over the past week when the business began promoting its opening in the near future at a new location of 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue via social media. The business would occupy the bottom floor of the building where Hunan Pan is located.

There was much discussion among residents on Facebook as to whether the establishment would feature adult entertainment or not, due to some conflicting messages published by the person operating its Facebook and Instagram accounts.  

Initially, Hush’s Facebook page described the business as a gentlemen’s club, but that changed when residents began flooding the page’s comment section and private groups with their concerns and questions.

One hour, the page’s operator told 3rd Ward alderman candidate Pat Jeanetti that it would include a private room for topless lap dances.

A short time after, there was a post discrediting the same information.

An excerpt from the explanatory post read as follows:

“To be clear and completely transparent I want to state that this in no way shape or form is a strip club / adult entertainment establishment nor are there any plans or intentions to become such in the future.”

The woman behind the idea to open this burlesque cafe, or “speakeasy,” Randi Lee England, told the Valley Indy that the Facebook page was hacked by a “rogue ex-partner” who is no longer a part of the business.

England’s business was granted a cafe liquor license in April 2017 that permits acoustic performances (not amplified), comedians, disc jockeys, karaoke, live bands, and plays/shows.

Both Lauretti and P&Z Chair Ruth Parkins said they heard about the business for the first time the same way most residents did, via Facebook. Lauretti and Parkins both assured those who are concerned about the business potentially offering adult entertainment that it couldn’t legally take place at this location without a zone change.

“People can say or think whatever they want to, but that’s not a permitted use, and you can’t hold a liquor license with nudity in Connecticut. It’s the law,” said Lauretti. “If Liquor Control issued them a liquor permit, it doesn’t include lap dances, stripping or nudity. If they’re going to do that there, they’re probably going to shut that down.”

The business would be able to open for business if it were said to avoid the classification of adult entertainment. An adult cabaret is described as “a public or private establishment which is licensed to serve food and/or alcoholic beverages, which features partially nude go-go dancers, exotic dancers, strippers, male or female impersonators; or similar entertainers,” according to the city’s charter.

The only possible way adult entertainment could take place legally at 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue is if four out of six P&Z commissioners voted in favor of a zone change.

Lauretti said the probability of that happening is “highly unlikely.”

England was unavailable for comment as of Wednesday morning

After the issue gained attention from residents, Shelton resident Tom Harbinson posted an article to Facebook in which he shared research of his own pertaining to the Hush establishment.

“A state license lookup of the entity “Hush” finds a Cafe Liquor license #7894 for ‘Miriam Q Sibai’ at the 303 Old Bridgeport Ave address, effective April 6, 2017. The backer of the liquor license is ‘HUSH IT UP LLC’ … Miriam Sibai is shown for the credentials of several liquor licenses, 7 are inactive, and 3 are current (Keeper’s Gentlemen's Club in Milford, Keystone in Bridgeport, Hush in Shelton).”

Harbinson’s research has also begun to circulate among private Facebook groups and now has residents speculating, once again, as to whether the intention stated for the business is to offer adult entertainment.

Some residents were alarmed at what Harbinson noted.

“Another Liquor permit for Miriam Sibai is shown for the “Keeper’s Gentlemens Club”, and looking up that at the Secretary of State’s website shows President and Director of Keepers Inc. at 33 A Light Street, as Julia Kish. A wikipedia entry shows Julia Kish as being the wife as Gus Curcio Sr. Wikipedia publications should not be treated as fact, though many statements are linked to reference materials. Gus Curcio Sr was listed as president of Recycling Inc. in the bankruptcy paperwork mentioned above where Robin Cummings and Joseph Regensburger were listed as creditors.”

Curcio is the owner or president of several local businesses, including Keepers Gentlemen’s Club in Milford, Jack Dempsey’s in Bridgeport and another Bridgeport strip club called Club Allure.

The club owner was charged with murder in 1981.

Lauretti said he’s heard the rumors of the well-known businesses owner’s involvement in the application, addressed resident concerns, but didn’t confirm or deny that Curcio is in fact involved in the Hush application.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” said Lauretti. “People are always concerned about something. Neighbor-to-neighbor disputes take place all of the time and they call my office looking for me to do something about it. Should I be concerned about it? I can’t, they’re not my issues. Domestic violence, should I be concerned about that? Of course, but how do I solve it?”